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Food Nutrition Security Cloud

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FNS-Cloud (Food Nutrition Security Cloud)

Reporting period: 2019-10-01 to 2021-03-31

Existing food nutrition security (FNS) data, knowledge, and tools (resources) for health and agri-food sciences, although widespread throughout Europe and beyond, are fragmented (i.e. different names for objects of interest in a variety of EU Member State [EU MS] spoken languages [e.g. tomato, домат, rajče, tomat, etc.] with values expressed using a range of units [g per litre, g per 100 g, g per portion] for diverse variables [nutrients, carbohydrates {sugars, starches, fibre}, proteins, fats {lipids and oils}, minerals, and vitamins, bioactive compounds], saved in a variety of data file formats), lack critical mass (point at which collections [e.g. letters, books, samples, data] becomes self-sustaining because of their high value to users), and access is unevenly distributed (i.e. barriers to access include technical, legal, political, motivational, economic, ethical). This means FNS data are not readily found, accessible, interoperable (exchange and compare) or reusable (FAIR). Also, with increasing digitalisation of FNS resources, being able to access and use tools and ICT services is a prerequisite, but FNS researchers lack confidence in their ability to exploit these effectively. Thus, FNS-specific ICT tools and services must be accessible and gaps in user confidence addressed urgently.

Food and human health are at the centre of complex interacting networks, and the current situation impact negatively European agriculture and the bioeconomy, inhibiting effective public health and agricultural policies and increasing development and production costs for the EU food industry, which employs 4.82 million people, generates a turnover of €1.2 trillion and €266 billion in added value. Also, currently, the largest companies in public cloud facilities such as FNS Cloud are non-European, despite potential revenue being more than 350 billion Euros. Ultimately, supporting European food and technology industries, and FNS researchers, will enable citizens to make more sustainable and healthier dietary choices. Some of the necessary information is available, and was paid for with public funds, but it is not FAIR and there are no mechanisms to support exploitation, so FNS-Cloud is tasked with Objective 1: Developing, integrating, and testing innovative cloud services; Objective 2: Implementing and testing a ‘cloud solution’ (FNS Cloud) using existing and emerging datasets, filling gaps with proof-of-principle new data only where necessary; Objective 3: Integrating different existing and emerging data, sources, and formats; and Objective 4: Developing a governance model and business operations.
To achieve its four specific objectives, the FNS-Cloud consortium must first deal with (1) technical implementation of FNS Cloud (solution), facilitating FAIRification of FNS resources and integration with existing and emerging initatives (e.g. EOSC, ELIXIR, ECRIN, MetroFOODS, Blue-Cloud), (2) services (tools, helpdesk support, education and training), which will enhance digital skills and confidence amongst users, (3) communication, raising awareness and knowledge about FNS-Cloud (project), but also engaging with stakeholders to understand better their needs, manage expectations, and promote dialogues amongst IT specialists, FNS researchers, social scientists, policymakers, etc. to ensure FNS Cloud (cloud solution) is fit-for-purpose, and (4) governance, shaping a sustainable entity that can ensure FNS data continue to be FAIR.

During Period 1 (October 2019-March 2021), the consortium has gained a good understanding of the problems with existing and emerging FNS datasets and how these might be brought into alignment. Several new tools have been developed and tested for this purpose, and consensus is emerging around FNS ontologies, the formal naming of objects and definition of categories to which they belong, allowing harmonisation of vocabularies (words/ terms used by different fields, e.g. agriculture versus nutrition), essential for data exchange and comparison. Recommendations for different specialists using these new tools and ontologies have been published, and potential solutions for matching terms to merge datasets are being explored.

A website for FNS Cloud ( has been implemented and linked to (a) datasets (64) and (b) tools and services (41), which can be searched using spoken language. FNS Cloud has also been linked to FAIRSPACE, which provides a central data archive and catalogue for FNS-Cloud datasets. GDPR-compliant log-on has been implemented to create a secure environment, and integration with other clouds and digital infrastructures is ongoing. Not all FNS resources can be standardised, because the diversity of information, which reflects the real-world issues encountered by user communities, but criteria for harmonising technical and analytical approaches, and testing amongst user communities, to explore agri-food chains, nutrition and lifestyle interactions, and reduction of non-communicable diseases have been established.

One of the most challenging aspects for FNS-Cloud is improving user community ICT skills and confidence. Thus far, the consortium has identified and exploited opportunities for training and published elearning to support continued professional development. An online Community of Practice (myFNSCloud) is supporting dialogue amongst the Beneficiaries, which is essential because of their assorted expertise (e.g. FNS researchers and IT specialists), and successful approaches are being rolled out for user communities alongside activities developing soft skills (e.g. communication, teamwork, leadership). FNS-Cloud has also hosted workshops with user communities, providing valuable insight into understanding and attitudes to Open Science as well as supporting understanding about the project and its objectives.

To help ensure that FNS Cloud is fit-for-purpose, and to hold the project accountable, an External Expert Executive Board has been constituted with representatives from user communities around the globe, providing tangible human links with other initiatives. Data sharing agreements have been established, allowing access to datasets co-owned by Beneficiaries and third parties, which are informing the structure and rules describing how FNS Cloud might be managed in the future for the benefit of all.
FNS-Cloud places researchers (user communities) at the centre of activities, whilst outputs (research results) add value for the wider stakeholder base (e.g. consumers, policymakers, industry). At this stage, socio-economic impact is limited, but the initial FNS-Cloud Charter describes a solution based on an Open Science and Open Innovation, bringing together user communities to answer research questions more efficiently and more effectively, which will benefit European citizens (health, access to safe, nutritious, affordable, and sustainable foods, gender equality) and the European (food) industry (competitiveness and innovation) as well as maintaining research excellence in a domain where Europe already established a robust and just reputation.
FNS-Cloud use cases rely on both existing and emerging data with some field trials to fill gaps
FNS-Cloud addresses inequalities in access to FNS data
FNS-Cloud mapped food nutrition security topics in order to support the FAIRification processes
FNS-Cloud brings uses cases and field trial data, knowledge, tools, and services together